Frequently Asked Questions

What do architects really want to know before installing sensors?

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What do Space Planners and Facilities Managers really want to know…?

Q: What type of sensors are available?

hook-1727484__480.png Office utilisation monitoring: Desks, Meeting rooms and breakout areas

hook-1727484__480.png Asset management

hook-1727484__480.png Footfall monitors

hook-1727484__480.png Air Quality

hook-1727484__480.png Environmental sensing

hook-1727484__480.png Parking sensors

Opportunities for sensors to provide reliable data inc. averages and peak demand:

  • Footfall (circulation and breakout areas)
    • What is the usage and traffic for common and breakout areas like toilet facilities and kitchens?
    • What are the trends of usage over the course the day or days of the week or weeks of the month?

    Desk utilisation

    • How many flexible desks and bookable desks do you need?
    • What are the trends of usage over the course the day, week or month?
    • When is peak usage?
  • Meeting room quantity and size
    • What is the right mix of meeting rooms for collaboration and communication?
    • How many and how big should they be?
    • What type of equipment such as projectors, large monitors, and white boards are needed and can be accommodated?
  • Environmental issues (noise, lighting, CO2, humidity and temperature)
    • What impacts employee wellness and productivity?
    • What is appropriate noise level for the tasks employees are performing?

Q: How do sensors detect desk occupancy work?

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There are different techniques that are used to detect desk occupancy, the most common and inexpensive is based on heat. The sensors look for a temperature reading at 37 degrees because in most offices unless you have an office cat like we do (hello Princess), most of the time there isn’t something warm sitting in a chair unless it’s a person. If there’s body heat registered, the desk is occupied.

Q: Do we have issues around privacy?

icon-2174737__480Well, there are always concerns about privacy. It’s very important for management to be clear with employees why they’re installing the sensors. The sensors are used to understand what the current usage of a space is and how to improve the design, or having already redesigned the space, they’re now trying to determine whether it is getting better results. The people we’re working with are primarily concerned about employee well-being and types of sensors used to  support this are air quality, temperature, noise, light, humidity and CO2.  

We recommend phased implementations vs. big upfront design i.e. encouraging an iterative model but with clear aims.  We don’t believe that ‘smart buildings’ are binary and upfront large investment both with software and especially with IoT projects usually just end up in frustration.  We’ve found that showing information and gathering feedback quickly, really helps inform the design process based around evidence and real data.

Starting from a prioritised list of problems and working backwards to the necessary data and then installing sensors is easier.  We spend a lot of time testing sensors and we are totally neutral in our recommendations. With that in mind, we also encourage a bit of consideration of what the basic infrastructure should be, for instance we use gateways, etc. that work using open protocols to enable future sensors to ‘talk’ to the same network.  

Q: What type of air quality sensors are available?  

Commercially available sensors can measure the level of potential contaminants including; O3, NO2, NO, SO2, CO, PM2.5 and lead.  Most of the devices are easy to connect and provide quality data measurements so that non-technical staff can deploy them.

Q: Is it possible to benchmark for instance comparing occupancy and other metrics between buildings?

images.pngYes. We can tell you, for a set of desks, the average occupancy by the day, week or month. Data is typically sampled every 10 minutes as it’s tagged with the date and time so the aggregate information tells you a lot about the space needs. It’s as if you had high speed, invisible survey takers running around, just making a note of whether the desk is occupied or not every 10 minutes.

Q: How do you select sensors?

We spend a lot of time testing sensors but we are absolutely neutral in our recommendations. Here are some factors to consider in assessing options for sensors.

hook-1727484__480.png cost

hook-1727484__480.png operating lifetime

hook-1727484__480.png accuracy, precision,and bias of measurement

hook-1727484__480.png  range of sensitivity

hook-1727484__480.png speed of response time

hook-1727484__480.png maintenance requirements

hook-1727484__480.png reliability

Q: What is the process of deploying sensors?

OpenSensors recommends a phased approach, from proof of concept to full-scale deployment, to ensure a successful installation of an IoT network in a business environment. Our aim is to reduce the time to go live and minimize risk.

Phase 1 Evaluate sensors:

Evaluate different sensors for quality, signal-to-noise ratio, power consumption and ease of setup by trying them out on a very small scale in a lab.  

Phase 2 Proof of concept:

Do a full end-to-end test to verify that the queries and analytics were feasible by connecting 5 to 10 sensors to a cloud infrastructure.

Phase 3 Pilot phase:

Move out of the lab into your actual environment. Typically, this requires somewhere between 30 to 100 sensors. We suggest a one to three month test to ensure that the sensors work at scale and the gateway can handle the load, similar to production usage.

Phase 4 Plan and implement full-scale deployment:

After the pilot phase, there should be enough data to verify network performance and your choices for sensors and connectivity, after which, full deployment can be planned in detail and implemented.

Contact us if you would like assistance on sensor selection, network design, or planning a proof of concept deployment.

 

Event: Show and Tell of Workplace Sensors

A perfect opportunity to let people see and feel environmental, occupancy and air quality sensors

 OS (2 of 2)

 

If you managed to join us last week at Unilever’s impressive London HQ, you will have seen demonstrations from us and our partners in the practical uses for sensors within Workspaces. It was a perfect opportunity to let people see and feel in real terms, different types of sensors from environmental, occupancy and air quality sensing.

Nate Barney and John Chang from Unilever have been smart in their approach to adoption of new technology and shared their approach with attendees. Cornerstones of their strategy include cloud first adoption, choosing vendors that have open APIs to encourage interoperability and understanding all systems should integrate via their analytics layer. Our guests Alex Storey from Disruptive Technologies and Bruno Beloff from South Coast Science introduced us to the sensor innovations they are leading the industry in and both gave informative presentations.

OS (1 of 2)

Disruptive Technologies’ sensors although small – the size of scrabble squares, have an impressive 15 year battery life. We are excited about how disruptive technologies’ sensors are going to change asset monitoring. If you can deploy sensors easily to know when machinery is being used, predicting it’s maintenance cycles and the headline dreams of industrial IoT are suddenly possible!

Bruno brought an example of one of his environmental sensors and gave a fascinating live demo measuring the CO2 in the room – especially disconcerting when it accurately measured the carbon monoxide from a smoker’s breath. South Coast Science have been a partner to OpenSensors for a number of years. Their Air Quality sensors focus on measuring gasses and particulates extremely accurately, these sensors are being adopted by Landlords and Occupiers who are working to meet the Well building standard. In putting sensors not only indoors but also by HVAC vents, building managers are able to monitor the performance of HVAC systems. Questions like ‘When should fresh air be circulated’, ‘Is the HVAC system making the air quality better or worse’ become easier to answer.

Daniel Hummelsund and Kevin Mugadza from OpenSensors also gave insight into the way we approach workspace deployments and our ethos on interoperapility of systems, unsurprisingly we strongly feel that new sensor systems deployed within a building context should ‘talk’ to existing systems and work to augment the workflows of the different people charged with managing the space. Daniel gave information around reports people like to see, how data is analysed in both spatial and time series view. Kevin deep dived into the practical realities of project managing sensors deployments. The team approach these deployments in a methodical way as the complexity of IoT is in getting sensors, networks, software and data layers to work seamless in usually complex environments.

After a lively Q and A and there was an opportunity for networking where guests could enjoy cold drinks on an extremely hot day and got the chance to mingle with other attendees. Thanks to everyone who came and made it such a success. We look forward to the next one in the Autumn.

Transcript of Evidence Based Design Webinar

Edited transcript of the OpenSensors Webinar on “Evidence Based Design of Workspaces” 

Edited transcript of the OpenSensors Webinar on “Evidence Based Design of Workspaces”

Our panelist are: * Arjun Kaicker of Zaha Hadid Architects. An architect and workplace consultant with more than 2 decades of experience in workplace design, he brings a real passion to his work and wants to create workspaces that directly respond to the needs and aspirations of his clients. * Yodit Stanton, CEO of OpenSensors. She has spent the last 15 years as a data engineer building large scale data processing and machine learning technologies in financial trading systems. She has been working with IoT data for the last 3 years. * Sean Murphy, CEO of SKMurphy, Inc. is an advisor to OpenSensors. Acting here as the “voice of the audience:” he poses questions to the panel as webinar attendees type them in.

Workspace Design Decisions Can Now Be Informed by Evidence from Sensors

Yodit Stanton: Thank you everyone. Welcome. This webinar covers data driven design or evidence based design. Essentially what that means is using data from sensors and other things around enabling people to understand how space is being used and also the design of the space. A lot of the trends we’re seeing, is in especially in building occupiers, remotely monitoring the buildings. There are also starting to use these data sets to inform the design and inform the future planning.

Arjun Kaicker: At Zaha Hadid Architects we’re really interested in the potential of sensors. Architects and designers have always struggled to really understand client needs in office projects. An office design is the opposite of a residential design. In a house there is a family with a few people who are the primary users of the building. In a office there are hundreds, possibly thousands, of users with very diverse behaviors and contradictory requirements.

Sensors provide a really powerful tool, for understanding workplace needs as we never have really been able to before. We no longer need to rely on assumptions and preconceptions of how people work, or on benchmarking, or—even worse—copying what other successful companies do with bean bags and foosball. Sensors really give us the opportunity to take the guess work out, take the assumptions out and to understand the real needs of workplace users.

Yodit Stanton: At OpenSensors we see three drivers for work space design:

  • The recognition that desks are underutilized in many offices is driving new forms of desk assignment where real estate costs are high. In London for example, the average cost of a desk is somewhere between 13K to 15K a year. It’s leading managers to ask, “How many desks do I really need? If I have 100 employees in my group do I really need 100 desks or will 80 be sufficient?”
  • Matching the right mix of meeting room—and break room—configuration options with employee needs for collaboration and communication: how many phone booths do I need? How many small rooms and how many large rooms. Are break rooms being utilized. Meeting rooms are often a point of contention and while booking systems have helped there are still challenges with someone reserving a block of time and then not using it.
  • The environmental aspects of the workplace, in particular noise and air quality. Both impact employee wellness and productivity. I think the Well Building standard (see https://www.wellcertified.com/system/files/WELL%20Building%20Standard_v1%20with%20January%202017%20addenda%20.pdf ) is one example of this. Another is managers concerned about noise levels in desk areas, what’s appropriate for the tasks they are performing.

Arjun Kaicker: Great points Yodit. Workplaces are expensive so we don’t want to waste space. We don’t want meeting rooms that are being underutilized or amenity spaces that are not as popular as people predicted. But the flip side is that we often find some spaces over utilized in the workplace so that they are not available when needed. In that case the problem isn’t about waste, it’s about people not being able to do their job properly. When people can’t communicate and collaborate properly because they can’t find a meeting room at the right time, it can have a real effect on business efficiency and productivity.

Sean Murphy: Arjun, I have a question for you. Yodit presented figures that it was 13 to 15 thousand pounds a year per desk in downtown London. I would think that the energy cost at most a 10% of that—perhaps even less than 1%—yet we’ve spent more time trying to instrument the energy usage than we have the space usage. Why do you think the space usage monitoring has lagged?

Arjun Kaicker: That’s a fantastic point. With energy a few sensors can capture the total use, while you may need more to get a finer grained understanding. I think space usage monitoring has lagged because you need many more sensors to be able to monitor it as carefully. Building management systems have enabled both the monitoring and adjustment of energy usage. Traditional reservation systems have not incorporated data from meeting room occupancy sensors so they have only been able to allocate but not measure actual usage. Swipe card systems that monitor every entrance and exit can be used to assess total occupancy but give very little detail on usage. I think that occupancy monitoring and utilization assessment are going to catch up with energy monitoring.

Real Goal Is to Enable Employees to be More Productive

Arjun Kaicker: We cannot lose sight of the fact that it’s the people and not the real estate or the energy that are asset, and the most expensive cost. Depending upon their skills and experience the total cost of the people is probably seven to ten times that of the space they occupy and energy they consume in an office setting. If a better designed workplace can increase productivity by five or six percent that’s equivalent to half of your real estate cost And, if you can, from getting a better designed place, from getting a better designed workspace. If you can increase productivity, the efficiency by 12 to 15% you have paid for your whole building—that’s where the real savings can come.

Space utilization studies

Sean Murphy: Currently how are folks monitoring the workplace? And how can using sensors make it more effective?

Arjun Kaicker: Today you can look at the swipe card data to see how many people are occupying a building but that doesn’t really tell you anything once they’ve gone into the building.

You can interview people or hand out surveys to ask them what they see working well and not so well. But this can end up being very subjective. As a workplace consultant, the only technique that I’ve used that did more than scratch the surface is a space utilization study.

For a space utilization study we start at one end of the building and walk to the other end, floor by floor. We walk to as many desks as we can within an hour and then turn around and start again. For eight hours we mark down what’s happening at the desk or what’s happening in the meeting room.

With one person in a week you can get good coverage on about a hundred desks: you have a snap shot for the week of how those desks were used. This is a very very useful complement to interviews and satisfaction surveys for an organization. The problem is that it’s just one week and it would only be for that second you walked past the desk during the hour. So, if someone happened to get up to use the restroom for five minutes while you were walking by you would mark the desk unoccupied for an hour. It’s a time consuming expensive method: to cover 1,000 desks you would need a least five people full time for a week.

Sensors Are Replacing Manual Site Surveys

Arjun Kaicker: Sensors have massively cut the cost of carrying out this kind of data gathering and the amount of time it takes. We have also found that although space utilization studies were very useful to give a kind of general picture, they weren’t that persuasive because people knew were only done over a week or they knew that actually, it was only a snapshot within a second within that hour. And, I think that sometimes managers and executives were a bit suspicious of them: it’s much easier to buy into requirements based on the very rigorous data from sensors.

Sensors Are Not a Substitute for Conversation

Sean Murphy: How do you tell if people have tried but failed to find the certain type of space? I needed a phone booth but I couldn’t find it? I needed a five person conference room and ended up in one that holds 20.

Arjun Kaicker: You cannot tell directly but you can be pretty sure it’s happening if we see 100% utilization of a particular resource. Normally 80% to 90% is about the limit before problems start to emerge.

Yodit Stanton: Sensors are complementary to satisfaction surveys and in-depth conversations. I would never say, even as a sensor company, that they can replace the in-depth conversations that you need to have with employees.

Arjun Kaicker: To give an example of that, a few years ago I had in client on the West coast of Canada. We did a space utilization survey—sensors were not available then—and we did a questionnaire. In the questionnaire people kept on saying ‘I can never find a meeting room when I need it’ but the space utilization study found that meeting rooms were used 30% of the time. We drilled in to see if there were any particular meetings rooms which had high use—maybe these were the ones people were complaining about—but answer was no, the highest meeting room usage was 60% of the time.

We dug in some more and did some in depth interviews and discovered that they were doing a lot of audio and video conferences with colleagues on the East Coast of Canada. There’s a four hour time difference and now it became obvious. For half the day in the window where their workday overlapped the over coast, these meeting rooms were booked solid. We were able to start designing to meet this need once were were able to reconcile the utilization data with the survey data and insights gleaned from in depth conversation.

How Are Sensors Changing the Architect’s Role?

Yodit Stanton: How do you see the role of architects changing? My understanding is that architects used to design the space and deliver the project and then move on to their next project. Now with these sensor networks actively collecting occupancy data and other systems generating live data, how do you see the role of architects changing with this ongoing stream of information about how the client is taking advantage of the design?

Arjun Kaicker: Sensors can make a really big difference to the way that architects design space because now we’re designing more for flexibility, for adaptability in the future. We’re not just looking at designing in day one. Sensors provide data that allows us to move beyond rules of thumb and best practice, to they enable us to understand client needs in much more depth so that can we design something that is better for them. Sensors are holding us more accountable to clients for the impact and usefulness of our designs

How OpenSensors Helps Evolution of Smarter Buildings

Yodit Stanton: We are a technology company, most of our customers come to us with a project and ask for help selecting the right sensors, managing their installation and integrating the data streams they emit with existing tools and information systems.

We really do three things:

  • Find and evaluate sensors for inclusion in sensor networks. We are always looking for new options that provide better battery life, better range, higher reliability, new protocols, or otherwise extend the set of capabilities of what we can offer. This often involves establishing working relationships that allow us to be knowledgeable but vendor agnostic.
  • Build and manage sensor networks that collect data and turn it into useful information. We spend a lot of time establishing partnerships with other firms that allow us to make proposals that include the installation and ongoing maintenance of not only software and cloud stack but on-site the hardware—primarily sensors and gateways.
  • Integrate with existing systems to provide them with useful information: this is what people really care about. Can you extend the capabilities of tools and systems I am already using to take advantage of this sensor network that has been installed. We believe that the trend toward smarter buildings will continue to be evolutionary, so we strive to interoperate with and extend the uses for tools that our clients are already comfortable with for reserving meeting rooms, managing workplace and facilities CAD data, and doing utilization surveys.

Different Sensor Types Zaha Hadid Uses To Understand Client Needs

Arjun Kaicker: We want to get a complete picture of the client’s needs and rely on the following types of sensors to get a full picture:

  • Desk utilization sensors are typically sampling every ten minutes to see if someone is seated at a desk. You can sample more frequently but there is a trade-off between the sampling rate and battery life and most of these are battery powered.
  • Meeting room counting sensors detect not only if the room is occupied but give a count of attendees. This allows us to determine if a room that can hold twenty has someone making a private phone call or is being used for a small meeting with three people.
  • Environmental sensors include noise, C02, and lighting here. It’s interesting to cross reference this with other occupancy data we have. Footfall sensors can measure use of hallways, circulation areas, and breakout spaces.

We can combine different data to answer the following kinds of questions:

  • In a hot desk environment where do people prefer to sit? Which desks typically fill up first and are more frequently occupied?
  • Which hallways are most travelled? How does this affect noise levels?
  • Which breakrooms are most occupied at different times of day?
  • If we have informal breakout areas do the ones that are more isolated tend to get used or the ones near circulation areas? The answers to these questions can vary from company to company and even between departments in the same company. It can be useful to instrument the current space when planning a new one as patterns of space usage intend to continue.

Making Sense of Sensor Data

Yodit Stanton: So far we have been discussing the various types of data that a sensor network can collect on workspace utilization and environment. Let’s talk about two ways that we use most commonly to visualize it to make sense of it. In space: typically as an overlay on CAFM or workspace CAD drawings. This can be used to answer the question “I want to see what’s going on right now.” In time: what are the trends of usage over the course the day or days of the week or weeks of the month. When is peak usage—and perhaps what does this look like on the seating chart? One thing we like to do is incorporate historical data from manual surveys so that we can potentially uncover trends that started before sensors were installed. Data from reservation systems can be incorporated to forecast near term needs and from swipe card systems to cross check total building occupancy.

Practical Cost Considerations For Managing a Sensor Network

Yodit Stanton: I wanted to cover some practical cost considerations for installing and managing a sensor network. You have to look at the following costs:

  • On-site sensor hardware is the most obvious cost and we often try and related everything to a “cost per sensor” or “cost per sensor per month/year” but this is really only a fraction of the total cost.
  • On-site network devices like gateways used to access an Internet Service Provider network.
  • Cloud services include off-site hardware; we say “in the cloud” but it’s in an off-site data center somewhere.
  • On-site installation costs includes labor for site preparation surveys, labor to install the sensors and gateways, and labor to troubleshoot any bringup problems and deliver an operational network on time and with a minimum of disruption to regular work.
  • On-site maintenance costs includes labor to replace failed sensors as well as to replace failed batteries.
  • Network management costs includes software and services to monitor and troubleshoot ny problems end to end in an operational sensor network.

There are a number of trade-offs but the one key point I want to make is that manual maintenance, changing batteries, and installing sensors can be significantly more than the raw cost of the sensor hardware.

  • Selecting “cheaper sensors” that are less reliable and/or less power efficient and therefore have shorter battery life may be much more expensive when analyzed from a total cost of ownership perspective than a more expensive sensor with higher operational life and longer battery life.
  • There are trade-offs between sampling frequency for events (e.g. how often do you check if a desk is occupied) and we normally sample once every ten minutes so that most batteries last 18 months to two years.
  • We have spent a lot of time developing specialized software just for installation management and ongoing network management to make on-site labor hours as productive and error free as possible—and to know that sensor 659 under desk A7 is not working and to understand why.
  • We also spent a lot of time working with manufacturers and doing our own testing and proof of concept designs to verify specifications. We want to offer our clients sensor networks at the lowest total costs per sensor and that means spending a lot of time testing the actual sensors and sourcing the most reliable low power hardware we can.

Need a well-defined strategy for communication about use of sensors

Arjun Kaicker: It’s really important to clearly explain the reasons behind a workplace project. Normally, it’s something simple like to create a better place for people to work. But if you don’t explain it to them, people often assume that it’s about cost cutting, or it’s about downsizing space. It’s about taking stuff away from them as opposed to enhancing the space for them.

In the absence of clear communication, people assume it’s about them. If you don’t explain that the goal is to understand the needs so you can create better spaces some people might assume that you’re trying to check their work performance.

Showing people the results of the data and not just explaining what you’re doing makes a big difference. With sensors, you don’t just have to provide the information to them at the end of the survey. You can actually do it in real time, so people can maybe click on the dashboard and see what findings of the sensors are in real time. And that can often make people feel much more comfortable with the process.

Sean Murphy: We had one question on that, around sensors only painting part of in picture in large organizations where the issues of utilization are more compelling. Know who is using the space is also important, which would seem to work counter to the privacy concerns. But I can understand where architects might want to know which groups or which category of persons.

Arjun Kaicker: Yeah, there definitely is a balance to be struck there. What we do is to have open discussions about with the client about what level of anonymity they want to have. So, there can be complete anonymity or there can be, for instance, anonymity that doesn’t tell you who the individual is. That might provide data on what group they’re in, what team or department they’re in, or might, alternatively, give information on what level they are within the organization. If they’re executive, or if they’re general staff, et cetera. Obviously, if you start to cross reference that a bit too much, then if there’s only one executive in a particular team, that starts to kind of ruin the anonymity.

But generally, you’d be able to process results that anonymous enough and, really, so no one is ever seeing who the individuals are. I think there’s one for the caveats of that, which is that we do … There’s an obvious issue with if there isn’t hot desking, if people have the permanent desk, then you’ll be able to pretty quickly work out, even if it’s anonymous … If that is the only person who ever sits there, then you kind of know how much time they’re spending at their desk. And I think that was always an issue with the space utilization studies. That people have to be comfortable with that level of visibility of what they’re doing.

Closing Thoughts

Sean Murphy: What I’ve learned today is that architects are using data to fuel design and are moving from rough rules of thumb to incorporate more granular data in the way that they’re making decisions. OpenSensors aggregate and help you understand the data. They are moving to enable this information to be fed into their existing tools and existing systems, the CAFM systems, the reservations systems at co-working facilities, systems like that.

Arjun Kaicker: I think that sensors are a great additional tool for architects and designers. I don’t think that they provide all the answers for understanding, using these, but they’re a really powerful part of a tool kit. I think, that also just interviews, surveys, workshops with people, really bringing users into the process is still as useful and viable as it’s always been. I also think that what sensors can start to do is that they can give us more broad data. When we start looking at a series of buildings and how a sense of data might be different in different buildings, and that might be particularly useful for developers even more so than specific building occupiers and so it can really start to help us to understand how to design spaces better for maybe multiple tenants.

Yodit Stanton: As a technologist, it’s very interesting seeing the kind of maturation of the sensor installs and actually enabling people that are not very technical to work with these types of stats. I’m fascinated what kind of impacts these trends are gonna make. Both in terms of the relationship between the levels and occupiers and how the trends that kind of started with, or are starting with, replacing a lot of the manual subways will drive a lot of automation, a lot of a kind of automation with in terms of meeting rooms and so forth and seeing what kind of change it drives in terms of the designer of these spaces. Because, you know, I think everyone wants to, or at least is trying to go towards multi-use, multi-purpose buildings that, you know, we still have some ways to go with that.

 

Next Generation of Workspaces Event

OpenSensors co-hosted panelists who gave their views of the current state of data driven workspaces

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OpenSensors co-hosted a panel for invited guests on the Future of Workspaces with Cushman & Wakefield. The panel also included Yodit Stanton, CEO of OpenSensors, Uli Blum, Architect at Zaha Hadid and Simon Troup, Founder of Fractalpha. Juliette Morgan, a Partner at Cushman & Wakefield moderated the panel. It was a lively crowd with a sense of urgency – wanting the future now!

Key takeaways

Our panelists gave a view of the current state of data driven workspaces through their different lenses.

Data driven world

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For Uli Blum, Architect at Zaha Hadid the world is increasingly driven by data. It gives us much more understanding of the technical aspects of how people work and are living in our spaces. He shared about different work styles, variations of acoustics across a floor, lighting conditions, proxemics, adjacencies, and connectivity. Zaha Hadid wants to better understand all of these aspects and take into account in design.

Competitive edge

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Simon Troup, Founder of Fractalpha shared how with data you are trying to find that secret sauce that differentiates you from the competition. He gave an example from the financial market where having access to early data before your competition is a huge edge over them.

 

 

IoT traction

yoditYodit Stanton, CEO at OpenSensors shared about the traction she was seeing, the practical side of how companies are deploying sensors and how to get started. Lots of people are putting in desk meeting room footfall sensors and trying to understand how many people are in the space and how to design better. But we also see combining this workspace occupancy data with facilities data from access control and building management systems for a full view of what is happening.

Why Use Sensors for Workspace Design?

Workspace designers are wising up and using OpenSensors’ capabilities to optimise their usage of real estate

Workspace designers are using OpenSensors’ capabilities to enable their customers to optimise their usage of real estate, smart buildings deliver productivity and improved UX for employees.

Why use sensors for workspace design?

Designers turn to IoT technology and OpenSensors’ digital data layer to address the needs of the owners, facilities managers and building tenants. Innovative new IoT technology and OpenSensors’ data reports, alerts and dashboards provide designers with detailed understanding of how people are using the space vs. gut feel on building performance.

A game-changer for the industry

  • Winning more deals both for new development or re-fit of iconic buildings
  • Lower cost than manual surveys
  • Real-time information to facilities managers and even tenants
  • Private data combined with public
  • Understand Air Quality factors for building wellness assessments

Sensors to replace manual work

For the first time deployment and maintenance of smart IoT sensors have become a cheaper alternative to manual occupancy questionnaires and surveys, sensors can have sampling rates of anywhere between once every few seconds to once every 30 mins. This sensor data can be correlated with information from Building Management Systems (BMS) to provide richer context and considerable more insight than manual surveys. Common interfaces include BACnet, KNX and other major systems. These data not only can be combined with private building data but can also be combined with public data like outdoor pollution.

How does it work?

OpenSensors have built hardware, installation and network provider partnerships and relationships to help architectural firms implement smart IoT devices efficiently. We have found that the most successful IoT projects follow a phased implementation approach: Design Phase, Proof of Concept, Pilot, and Deployment. The design phase asks questions such as which sensors, who will be installing and maintaining the sensors. For Proof of Concept, a lab evaluation should include hooking up 5-8 sensors all the way through a gateway to data collection in the cloud. This will give enough real data to verify that the queries and the analytics are feasible. The Pilot Phase ensures that the sensors work at scale and that the gateway configuration has been made easy for the deployment specialists. A pilot phase should be about 40 sensors depending on the density of the sensors. At this point, you can scale up to the number of sensors and the bandwidth required for full deployment.

Practical Examples

Heat maps can help define predictable patterns of usage including peak demand for: * Desks – real-time information of which desks that are in use and which that are available * Conference rooms – Do you have the appropriate amount of meeting rooms, and are they of the right size? * Breakrooms – Where do tenants tend to go and hang out? Are some breakrooms over- or under-utilised? * Corridors and hallways (footfall monitors) – Are some paths through the offices more used than others? Why?

Sensors helps in pitching for new work in a world where people are aware of sensors and how they can drive revenue. Firms who have sensor capabilities have adopted data driven design methods which is replacing gut feel.

Emerging Areas of Practice

Using sensor data enables more accurate planning, and by making it available to occupants, you enable them to both change their behavior and allow them real-time insights and finer customization.

Integration

  • Digital scale models: OpenSensor data can be integrated with architects’ current CAFM systems and 3D rendering environments.
  • Intelligent / Reactive Environments: OpenSensors data can be integrated with displays for open desk notification.

Top 10 Reasons for Data Driven Design

A small investment in sensors to continually monitor desk usage, hallway traffic and room occupancy can yield a wealth of hard data to base your design decisions on.

Two of the biggest risks you face as an architect or space planner are:

  • overlooking a key problem in your design or
  • investing too much space or budget for one of the client’s goals, leading to less satisfactory solutions to other goals.

These are often two sides of the same coin: while experience counts for a lot it cannot always compensate for a lack of data about how the client is actually using the current space. A small investment in sensors to continually monitor desk usage, hallway traffic, and meeting room and break room occupancy can yield a wealth of hard data to base your design decisions on. This data allows the team to move past dueling hypotheses and get on the same page about real needs based on current usage patterns, which in turn makes the design and development process more efficient and allows the team to craft better solutions for the client’s needs within their space and budget constraints.

The Good Sensor

“What sensors shall I use to understand my space usage?”

On a daily basis our customers and community ask us to recommend a sensor provider to buy from, you should ping me on hello@opensensors.io if you want us to recommend your sensor. Often the requirement is vague, “I need an air quality sensor to put on my street for $100?” or “What sensors shall I use to understand my space usage?”. My process of assessment has grown more refined over time because if the sensors we recommend are unsuitable or unusable our company’s reputation is also on the line by association.

So we have come up with our own unscientific way to rate the quality of a sensor that should be applied simply. Most large scale sensor rollout projects of 1K or more often have these requirements as well. It’s possible that sensor providers that don’t rate highly using our criteria produce good sensors but getting the below right takes iteration and discipline in design and the likelihood is that the provider will a higher chance of being able to deliver.

Battery life If a sensor is battery powered, the typical expected life of battery should be clearly stated. Buyers will often want some explanation of what typical means for your sensor i.e. if it’s a PIR sensor have you calculated battery life based on being triggered once a day? The last thing your customers wants to do is invest in a lot of sensors, plus the cost of installation in order to find out that the battery life is only % of what they expected as it will still cost them a lot of money to rip them out and return them.

Bonus point for sensors that publish their battery status as standard so that the sensor owners can have some warning before changing.

Heartbeats

Sensors should tell people whether they are still alive or not periodically. Depending on your battery and connectivity constraints, this can vary, the important thing is that the buyer should not find out a bunch of devices are not working because they haven’t been heard from in days or weeks. Top tip; Heartbeats every 10-60 minutes when possible is sufficient, anymore and it ceases to be informative.

Installation and maintenance procedure

In non consumer environments, the people installing and maintaining sensors are often not the technical design firms or manufacturers. Does your device clearly tell people how to install it, do you have helper applications so that they don’t have to configure firmware? We are working on some solutions for this but more on this later; hint it’s all about enabling people to install sensors efficiently and a non technical installer being able to walk away knowing that the device has joined the network correctly. Does your sensor come with mounting and fittings?

Do people have to unscrew the casing to change batteries? Have you tested this with people and verified it?

 Data Quality

Quality in my definition means, is the data from your sensor easily understandable for someone that doesn’t know your domain. The reality is that often manufacturers pass on the analogue value of the particular sensor and that is too low of an abstraction for most people trying to read it. Battery voltage is a good example, during its life an AA battery will go from 1.5v to about 0.8v, but it follows a curve specific to the device and the battery. Understanding how this maps to a percentage or days of life is often complex. If it’s not possible to do much conversions or processing on your sensor or gateway, perhaps a handy explainer when people buy your device making them understand what the data means.

Support

Please state clear terms for warranties and return procedures to protect your consumers. Consumer protection should naturally apply.

Finally developing high quality hardware is hard, I am always amazed at the skill and dedication it takes when hardware designers and engineers take an idea and get it to manufacturing stage. We try to manage the community’s expectations on sensors they should buy vs the attitude of ‘just throw around cheap sensors’. It would be better in terms of environmental sustainability and user experience to get into the habit of doing more with less sensor density. For more on this, see Dr Boris Adryan’s excellent blog post

I have purposefully not mentioned security in this post as security assessments come with a lot of complexity, will aim to write up on this sometime soon.

Many Thanks to Toby Jaffey for editing.